Muesli Fusion, an organic cereal, available in Wegmans

By Todd Clausen
Democrat and Chronicle  March 5, 2011

It could be the move that really makes Ian Szalinski’s business, or it could send the 23-year-old city resident over the edge.

Szalinski recently told me that his product, Muesli Fusion, an organic cereal that he started packaging and distributing out of a small space on Atlantic Avenue, is going to be sold in Wegmans Food Markets. Currently it’s available in 80 stores in 11 states.

It’s a big move for the small startup that began selling about 300 pounds a week of the product about a year ago.

“It’s to the point where I can’t just keep up on my own so I need more people to help me out,” said Szalinski, who is founder of the company. “I’m working well over a 100 hours a week and projects are still getting pushed back and not getting done.”

The last 12 months have been somewhat of a whirlwind for Szalinski as he worked to get the cereal into specialty stores like the Abundance Cooperative Market and Webster Gourment, while promoting the product at events like the Park Avenue Festival.

He’s also established a social media presence and has knocked on a lot of doors to sell his cereal of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Basically, he’s the only one doing everything.

That is going to change soon, Szalinski said. He’s moving his operations to a facility eight times the size of his old 400-square-foot space. The Buffalo native and graduate of the State University College at Geneseo also wants to hire about five folks to help.

Szalinski is part of a growing number of millennials who have skipped the employment lines and career fairs to become entrepreneurs on their own, partly because they have had little alternative.

In 2010, unemployment rates hit 18.4 percent among 16- to 24-year-olds, about double that of all workers and the worst on record in 60 years, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Now about 8 percent of those age 18 to 34 own businesses, and 11 percent plan to start businesses within the next year, according to a 2011 report by the Young Invincibles published in USA Today.

So while cash might still be tough for someone like Szalinski, at least some his age are finding other ways to pay the bills.

And perhaps Wegmans will be Szalinski’s big break.